PHOENIX - Until Travis d'Arnaud took a foul ball off his foot in April, he was next in line to catch for the Mets if starter John Buck suffered an injury.
It didn't matter that he started the season with Triple-A Las Vegas. It mattered only that he impressed Mets decision-makers enough during spring training to position himself for the leap to the major leagues.
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Four months later, d'Arnaud finds himself in a similar situation, preparing to jump to the big leagues with Buck set to take paternity leave sometime this week for the birth of his son. Even though d'Arnaud has missed most of the year with a fractured left foot, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Friday that the prospect is in line for a promotion when Buck suddenly leaves the team.
"We only have three catchers on the roster, so if John has to go, it makes sense to bring d'Arnaud in here unless there's a real good reason not to," Alderson told Newsday. "Right now, there isn't a real good reason not to."
Alderson stopped short of saying that d'Arnaud will be called up when Buck has to leave the team. But with Buck, Anthony Recker and d'Arnaud the only catchers on the 40-man roster, the 24-year-old is a natural to join the Mets.
If d'Arnaud gets the call, Terry Collins said he will see action for the Mets. The manager said it would be helpful for d'Arnaud to "get a taste, see what it's like" in the majors.
Said Collins: "He'll be in the game."
The team is set up logistically to promote d'Arnaud at a moment's notice. His minor-league rehab assignment changed Friday from Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas, which is closer to the Mets, who Friday night began an 11-game road trip, with the first 10 in Arizona, Los Angeles and San Diego.
D'Arnaud was the key piece in a trade that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays during the offseason. While still with the Blue Jays' organization, d'Arnaud missed much of last season recovering from a knee injury. The Mets hoped he would spend some of this year getting playing time at Triple-A before winding up with the Mets.
But d'Arnaud was sidelined with a fractured foot after hitting .250 with a homer and eight RBIs in 12 games with Las Vegas. He has played only 13 games during his minor-league rehab stint, hitting .265 with a homer and eight RBIs with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets and Double-A Binghamton.
"All the reports are positive," Alderson said. "There's some people who have watched him play who think he's ready to jump in now. So as far as I'm concerned, there's no downside at this point. But we're happy with what we have."
Buck's paternity leave will last three days, though it's unclear when it will begin. His wife is near her due date. Buck reiterated Friday that he will fly to New York immediately if his wife goes into labor.
It remains unclear if d'Arnaud will remain with the team after Buck returns. But even if he were sent back to the minors, he likely wouldn't be gone long as rosters expand Sept. 1.